WASHINGTON – President Biden’s pledge name a black woman To fill an upcoming Supreme Court vacancy has thrust Republicans into a complicated political calculation, forcing them to confront a level of fierceness against the nominee and how to do it without being racist and sexist.
While Supreme Court battles have become the norm in recent years, Republicans are pondering whether to wage all-out war or take a more moderate approach to war. against Mr. Biden’s choice, especially when the president chooses who to succeed him. Justice Stephen G. Breyer will not change the conservative ideological trend of the court.
Many of them recognize that a divisive fight could provide more fodder for Democrats to try to deepen ties between their party and African Americans ahead of the midterm elections. this year. And while some have questioned Mr Biden’s prior promise to bring the first Black woman to court, arguing that selection should be based on merit rather than race or gender, Republicans Coming into the contest fully aware that the disruptive nature of a president’s choice can make challenging the candidate much more difficult.
“The idea that race and gender should be #1 and #2 is not recommended,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who is seen as a potential voter in favor of the choice. Biden’s pick. . “On the other hand, there are a lot of Black women who qualify for this post and unfortunately the Democrats have been successful in trying to declare Republicans anti-Black, so rejecting a Black lawyer black can be more difficult.”
Others say the historic nomination of the first Black female justice without the court’s philosophical balancing act could provide an opportunity for a reset after a series of confirmations shrouded in controversy. brutal partisanship, even if most Republicans ultimately oppose the choice.
Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, said: “I think there’s a lot of value in bringing the temperature down.
Even if most Republicans seem inclined to prevent candidate consideration turning to a highly polarized and partisan clash, doing so will not be easy. At least two Republican senators, Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Ted Cruz of Texas – white men, like the vast majority of the Senate – have been criticized in recent days for suggesting that his promises Mr. Biden is insulting and acts like affirmative.
Mr Wicker said the nominee would benefit from a “quota” that the Supreme Court itself had considered, while Mr Cruz said Mr Biden’s pledge “is truly an insult to Black women”.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, said such comments show that the Republican Party has moved from “racial dog whistles and straight to racial sirens” “.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and chair of the Judiciary Committee, said Monday that as the Biden administration has sought to expand the diversity of the federal bench over the past year. , he found that the nominations of “assertive women of color” drew more fire from Republicans than he had expected.
However, Mr. Durbin said he was hopeful that the final candidate would be able to garner bipartisan support and said he had been actively reaching out to Republicans to ensure that they would reach out. be with the chosen one.
“I think there are some Republican senators who might — maybe — consider voting for a nominee in Biden,” he said.
While the court process is in its early stages, the early days have dropped significantly from the incriminating atmosphere that marked recent confirmation clashes from the outset.
On Tuesday, Mr. Durbin and Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, arrived at the White House for a friendly meeting with Mr. Biden to discuss the nomination. waiting for progressing.
The president, a former chairman of the panel, said he welcomes Republican input. “I am serious when I say that I want the advice of the Senate as well as consent,” he said.
Later, aides to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, released a routine statement saying he had spoken to Mr. Biden by phone and shared his desire to get a candidate. candidate demonstrates “commitment to originalism and textism”.
It contrasts sharply with 2016, when Mr. McConnell went to the White House to personally inform President Barack Obama that he had no intention of considering Obama’s nomination to fill the seat left open after the President’s death. Law Antonin Scalia, a meeting in the Senate. The leader later called one of his proudest moments.
Both sides immediately went to battle stations, a dynamic that persisted in the Supreme Court’s ugly confirmation struggles in 2018 and 2020.
This time, the leaders of both sides were more reserved.
“You can expect the Senate, the Republican minority, to treat the nominee with respect and go through the process seriously, thoughtfully,” McConnell told reporters on Tuesday. unique.
In his own remarks, Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat and majority leader, alluded to Republican attacks on Mr Biden’s pledge to bring people together. His first nomination was a Black woman.
“Every member of this chamber, regardless of party, must live up to the president’s commitment to ensure our courts – and the Supreme Court in particular – better reflect,” Schumer said. diversity of our country”. “And nominating a Black woman for justice is a long overdue step toward that goal.”
Senate Republicans are particularly sensitive to suggestions of racism at this time. Democrats have spent the past several weeks accusing them of ignoring efforts to crack down on voting minorities in Republican-led states and equating their opposition to federal law to combat it. back such efforts with “Jim Crow 2.0”.
Mr. Biden direct comparison Opponents of the Democratic suffrage package fell on the Republicans’ radar last month against notorious Southern racists like Bull Connor. That comparison drew an angry and annoyed response from Republicans like McConnell and Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the party’s No.
However, Republicans in the Senate, whose membership is almost entirely white and male, are also aware that they may be vulnerable to such attacks. They added two Republican women to the Judiciary Committee after they were forced to bring in a female prosecutor in 2018 to avoid the sight of an all-white male panel challenging Christine Blasey Ford over conduct charges. Her sexual misconduct against Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Brian Fallon, executive director of the progressive group Demand Justice, which has been closely monitoring the review of judicial candidates Biden, said the backlash to comments from Mr. Cruz and Mr. Wicker demonstrated threatens the dangers ahead for Republicans if they get too tough. .
“Those two just underscored that Republicans have not tactfully expressed opposition to a candidate nominated in Biden, who is the first black woman without being labeled as race-based,” he said. ethnicity. “They are very clumsy in this.”
With conservative voters traditionally boosted by Supreme Court displays, many Republicans still want to show their opposition to what will most likely be a candidate. ideological freedom. They say they won’t be discouraged by an in-depth assessment of a nominee’s qualifications and philosophy.
“If he’s nominating someone who’s not fundamentalist and isn’t constitutionalist and is subject to objections, who knows?” Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, a Republican member of the Judiciary Committee who is considered a presidential aspirant. “For my part, I think we need to do this – we need to thoroughly examine this person.”
At this point, Republicans say they don’t see themselves using procedural barriers such as boycotting Judiciary Committee procedures to try to derail a candidate, an approach that has could be seen as an unfair attempt to sabotage the process.
They also say they are generally civil to Supreme Court candidates rather than Democrats, pointing out that the character attacks they say have damaged Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation process but dropped out. through Mr. McConnell’s nearly year-long blockade of Obama’s nominee, Merrick B. Garland.
“Our Democratic friends always seem to be more annoying than we are when nominating candidates,” said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas and senior member of the Judiciary Committee. candidate for the Supreme Court. “I expected a more decent process.”
While they may not vote for the nominee, other Republicans said the process could ultimately provide a moment to be enjoyed.
“We fully expect the nominee not to be a conservative,” Mr. Cramer said. “If they’re acceptable in every way and they’re a Black woman because the president has pledged to nominate a Black woman, we should celebrate that.”
Emily Cochrane contribution report.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/02/us/politics/republicans-supreme-court-nominee.html How strongly Republicans weigh in against a black female Court nominee